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  • I Am the First Woman to Receive a Degree

    Who Am I?

    by Anthony Parente

    I was born in 1646 in the beautiful Loredan Palace located on the Grand Canal in Venice. My father Giovanni was procurator of Saint Mark and a Venetian dignitary. At age seven my local parish priest tutored me in philosophy and theology. In addition to my parish priest I had others tutor me in grammar, mathematics, music, and science. I can speak and write, French, ancient Greek, modern Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and Spanish. I am extremely religious and at age 11 I decided to take the vow of chastity. Later in life I decided to become a Benedictine oblate. You are probably asking yourself what makes me such an important figure in Italian history.

    It wasn't until I turned 32 that I became an important figure in Italian history and education. I was content in my studies and knowledge, but my father urged me to apply for an examination in theology from the University of Padua. My application was met with great resistance because it was unheard of for a woman to make such a request. Instead, I was granted an examination in Philosophy. Many people from around Italy came to see me defend my thesis. I successfully completed my examination and I was honored with the title of Master and Doctor of Philosophy. With this title I received a laurel crown and a ermine cape and I became the first woman in the world to receive a degree from a university. After this great accomplishment I returned to studying and doing charity work for those less fortunate. My journey through life ended on July 26, 1684 in the city of Padua.

    Very few people know who I am. Those who attended Vassar College know me because I am the woman in the stained glass window in the Thompson Memorial Library. Students at the University of Pittsburgh may remember me as the woman whose portrait was painted on the wall of the Italian classroom. For those of you who haven't figured out my identity I wish to introduce myself.

    My name is Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia and below you can find more information about my life and my accomplishments.

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